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Medical mistakes claim hundreds of thousands of lives each year around the country, and many of these errors happen in operating rooms. Surgeons in Iowa work under incredible pressure, and even minor distractions like loud noises or negative thoughts can make a potentially deadly mistake 66 percent more likely. This was the conclusion reached by researchers from Columbia University after observing how a surgeon reacted to stress during operations.

The researchers issued the surgeon with a special shirt that measured electrical impulses and heart rate variations during surgical procedures. The surgeon wore the Hexoskin Smart Shirt under his scrubs as he performed 25 operations on 12 patients at Stanford Medical Center in California. Researchers also installed video recording equipment in the operating room so they could identify mistakes. The timing of the operating room errors were then compared to the surgeon’s heart rate to see if they were stress-related.

The video footage suggests that solving the problem may not be straightforward. Operating rooms are packed with sophisticated medical equipment that emit all manner of noises to warn surgeons and nurses about possible problems, and the recordings show that medical professionals often engage in side conversations while operations are being performed. These are exactly the kind of distractions that can lead to tragic mistakes according to the study.

Studies such as this one could be used by personal injury attorneys to question the actions of doctors in medical malpractice cases. Civil lawsuits are decided based on the preponderance of the evidence, which means that plaintiffs must only persuade juries that their allegations are more likely true than false. Credible research revealing that even minor stress can greatly increase the chances of a surgical error could help attorneys to meet this burden.